L’OPERA DE MARSEILLE, Temple de l’art lyrique by André Segond (in French)
ISBN 978-2-84521-469-9


Editions Autres Temps Juin 2013

At 15 euros this 175 pages paperback book is a real bargain but is it also a good read? It obviously depends on your expectations. André Segond the author uses a chronological framework (the various directorships) to tell the history of the house and above all of the operas performed ànd the singers involved. So you more or less get an idea what the opera of Marseille was about. The whole narrative is seasoned with some anecdotes, one more interesting (a disappointing Titta Ruffo, Del Monaco refusing to give an encore, Lauri-volpi cutting Parmi veder le lagrime, Caterina Mancini suffering cardiac problems but nevertheless finishing the performance) than the other.

The book is illustrated with some 66 photographs. An appendix is provided with the operas created at the Marseille opera but a name index is missing. Segond often quotes reviews of the works and singers who performed but I had expected a more personal touch as well. And when in  1945 he writes a heavily booed soprano had to be replaced as Santuzza during the performance by Jeanne Rinella he neglects to give the name of the unfortunate singer. Moreover Segond as a history professor passes over the second world war too quickly. On page 48 he states numerous Jewish artists disappeared but only gives one example and that’s it.

Marseille2 (Franco Ghitti in 1963 a strongly protested Faust here with Anna Moffo in Amsterdam)

The book also could have used some professional editing: Charles Friant becomes Friand (pg. 20), Mathilde Comes on page 14 becomes (correctly) Comès on page 20, André Turp becomes Alain(?) Turp a few pages later and Mario(?) Stecchi (pg. 130) is only known to me as Marco Stecchi and on page 161 Angelès Gulin becomes Giulin. It is Giampiero Mastromei and not Gianpiero (pg. 161) and I suppose Segond means Le Roi d’Ys when he writes Le Roi d’I (pg.44)…. A second volume starting from  1975 is under preparation.


Some singers enjoying an important career in Marseille : Belgian baritone Valere Blouse, José Luccioni and René Bianco, Luis Mariano (!!!)made his operatic debut in Marseille in Don Pasquale, Jean Marny tenor AND director of the Marseille opera.

(Jean Marny, courtesy Charles Mintzer collection)